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AFTRS Honorary Degrees For Lynette Wallworth, Cherie Romaro and Mitch Torres

Cherie Romaro, Lynette Wallworth, Mitch Torres

World-renowned VR artist Lynette Wallworth, broadcasting innovator Cherie Romaro and pioneering broadcaster and filmmaker Mitch Torres will today receive Honorary Degrees from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

The Honorary Degrees will be presented at the Australian Film Television and Radio School’s (AFTRS) annual graduation ceremony later today, which will also see 137 students graduate from the 2020 academic year.

Ms Wallworth, Ms Romaro and Ms Torres are each trailblazers in their fields and exceptional role models for Australia’s creative community.

Ms Wallworth will receive a Doctor of Arts, Film and Television (honoris causa) 2019 Honorary Degree, which was not presented last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms Romaro and Ms Torres are recipients of the 2021 Honorary Degree, with a Doctor of Arts, Radio (honoris causa) and a Doctor of Arts, Film and Television (honoris causa) being awarded respectively.

Lynette Wallworth who, last year, was AFTRS inaugural Artist-in-Residence, is an Emmy and AACTA award-winning Australian artist/filmmaker whose immersive installations, VR and film works reflect on the connections between people and the natural world. Ms Wallworth’s work has been shown in galleries and festivals worldwide and in film festivals including Sundance, Venice, London, IDFA, CPH:Dox, HotDocs, Sheffield and Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne film festivals.

Her works include the interactive video installation Evolution of Fearlessness; the award winning ‘fulldome’ feature Coral, with accompanying augmented reality work; AACTA award-winning documentary Tender; Emmy award-winning virtual reality narrative Collisions which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and the 2016 World Economic Forum, Davos; and XR work Awavena, which premiered at Sundance and was in competition at the 2018 Venice Film Festival. Ms Wallworth has been awarded a UNESCO City of Film Award, the Byron Kennedy Award for Innovation and Excellence, in 2016 she was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the year’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. She received the inaugural AFTRS Creative Fellowship, the Joan and Kim Williams Documentary Fellowship and the inaugural Sundance New Frontiers VR Fellowship.

Ms Wallworth said: “I am thrilled and honoured to receive an Honorary Doctorate from AFTRS. The school has supported my work for over a decade, it has been a fruitful association and this honour is another milestone. I really appreciate the recognition for my work with its focus on emerging tech and immersive storytelling.”

Cherie Romaro began her executive career in commercial radio at a time when women were generally employed only as receptionists and executive assistants. Cherie broke that mould with an exceptional career through the world of radio, television, journalism, digital and podcasts. Australia’s first-ever (commercial radio) female Music Director, she went on to become Music Director at 2SM in Sydney when the Top 40 station ruled the airwaves. Ms Romaro pioneered FM formats in Australia and, after co-authoring three successful government submissions for FM licenses, she became the inaugural Content Director for rock station 2MMMFM, later crossing to 2DAYFM working for the high-profile board consisting of Michael Willesee, Graham Kennedy and John Laws and creating one of Australia’s most celebrated radio brands, the first-ever soft adult contemporary format.

Ms Romaro’s programming and management successes continued internationally with consultancies in Paris, NRJ (formally known as Pacific FM Network) 54 radio and television stations, News, Talk, Classical, French, CHR and Soft AC. Returning to Australia to ARN she launched the MIX and Gold FM networks across the country before redirecting her talents to television, to reposition Arena and The Weather Networks, later returning to radio with EON Broadcasting to reposition Classic Hits 2CH. Ms Romaro continues to apply her many talents to the world of media.

“I am extremely honoured to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate Arts, Radio. I can hardly believe this has happened to me, I never could have imagined it in my wildest dreams. I am privileged to work in an industry I love, and over the years I have had some extraordinary mentors, people who have really believed in me such as Rod Muir, Rhett Walker, Mike Willesee, Patrick Delany and John Williams. I have always believed in giving back and this amazing training facility AFTRS allows me to pass on my experience and knowledge to the students,” Ms Romaro said.

Mitch Torres was SBS’s first Indigenous presenter (1988) and went on to do her journalism cadetship with ABC TV news, later becoming the first presenter and field journalist for GWN’s long-running magazine program Millbindi. Ms Torres became a broadcaster with Indigenous radio stations Goolarri in Broome and WAAMA 6NR in Perth, before joining ABC Kimberley as the morning show’s presenter and producer. In the mid-1990s, she turned her talents to visual storytelling and made her first short drama for the Shifting Sands Short Drama Initiative (SBS TV). She then began making documentaries, including the award-winning Jandamarra’s War and the heartbreaking Whispering in our Hearts, a historical documentary about the Mowla Bluff Massacre in the West Kimberley. Ms Torres has directed and/or written a range of dramas and documentaries and theatrical plays.

Ms Torres’ current focus is on drama and she continues to create, research and produce projects to grow her own film company Nagarra Nagarra Film and to help nurture and grow the next generation of talented Indigenous West Australian filmmakers, by offering creative opportunities and partnerships, such as the co-production with Ramu Productions on the supernatural series Seven.

“I am honoured and humbled to receive this Honorary Doctorate from the AFTRS. I stand on the shoulders of many inspiring members of my family: my grandparents, parents and children and film media community who inspired me to craft our stories together. I also honour them as I receive this acknowledgment. I thank them for being a central part of my creative journey, and look forward to continuing and creating stories that matter,” Ms Torres said.

AFTRS Chair, Russel Howcroft, said: “An AFTRS honorary degree is only awarded to the highest achievers and it is one of the highest honours that can be conferred on a creative screen arts and broadcast practitioner in Australia. Lynette, Cherie and Mitch are each inspiring leaders and innovators in their fields who continue to make outstanding contributions to the screen and broadcast culture in this country.”

See all recipients of AFTRS honorary degrees here.

Also today, 137 students will graduate from four AFTRS courses – Graduate Diploma in Radio; Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production; Master of Arts Screen; and Master of Arts Screen: Business & Leadership. A significant achievement across all courses are the screen productions and radio broadcasts that students have completed during the COVID pandemic. Amongst the first productions to go ahead in the COVID environment, AFTRS and its students notably led industry best-practice in COVID safe protocols.

AFTRS CEO, Nell Greenwood, said: “Graduation is a significant moment in our school year where we celebrate our students’ learning and we formally mark their transition into industry. I couldn’t be prouder of our graduates and our School’s achievements. Ninety-three per cent of AFTRS 2020 graduates are currently working in the screen and broadcast industries. Over the past year, we’ve also had wins at international festivals and two of our graduates’ films, made while at AFTRS, secured international distribution deals. AFTRS is here to serve and support the Australian industry and upskill our graduates to make work that entertains and connects audiences at home and around the world.”

This week also saw the annual AFTRS Graduate Showcase, a hybrid of both in-person and virtual programming with screenings, information sessions, networking, exhibitions and more, with graduating students presenting their works to leading Australian industry representatives, including broadcasters, producers, acquisitions and development executives.